DW DRUMS: THE FUTURE OF TRADITION
Those of us who are concerned about such things continue to be confused and disappointed about what the Gibson guitar company has done to the name of Slingerland and to the Slingerland line. To think that the drums– endorsed by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and dozens of other drum stars through the years–has virtually disappeared, is simply a disgrace. The situation is beyond understanding, especially given the news that Yamaha is bringing out a Rogers drum line, even though the drums are nothing like the original or classic Rogers line. What counts in that case is the name.
A number of us– including Arthor Von Blomberg, the mastermind behind the upcoming 100th birthday celebration for Gene and the future Broadway musical play based on Gene’s life and music–have contacted Gibson about buying the Slingerland name. Our point is that Gibson is doing nothing with it and at the very least, our consortium would keep the name alive. After contacting the Gibson offices in the United States, Europe, Asia, Japan and China about this, we have not heard word one about any of this, which is hardly unexpected. There is no information on whether any Slingerland inventory exists, and Slingerland drums are not offered in any national catalog or the Modern Drummer Drum Buyer’s Guide.
Slingerland might not have been the General Motors of the drum industry, but they were among the “big four” of drum manufacturers, with the other three being Gretsch, Ludwig and Rogers. All but Slingerland are still with us, and that is a disgrace to the industry and to America.
The big question, and feel free to address this in the JazzLegends.com forum, is: “If Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were alive today, what brand of drums would they be playing?”
From what little I know, I am pretty sure that these giants would have played drums made in America, and I’m pretty sure the brand would have been Drum Workshop, a.k.a. DW. Indeed, DW did offer a Buddy kit at one time.,
The last time I spoke to anyone within the company, I was told that they cannot manufacture their fine product quickly enough to supply retailers and players. Their story, indeed, is a singular one. Herewith is some background info, courtesy of DW founder Don Lombardi and the DW web site:
Their slogan is, “The Drummer’s Choice® ” and Lombardi maintains that it’s more than a slogan, “it’s a fact.” Shades of Buddy Rich!
“It’s remarkable that in our 31st year, the excitement level of coming to work is every bit as much now as when we started,” he says.
It all began in 1972 when Don, at age 26, opened a small teaching studio in Santa Monica, Calif. He called the studio Drum Workshop, offering both private lessons and monthly workshops.
“My fascination with drums started at 12 with a neighborhood teacher at a local music store,” Don recalls. “Over the years, I had such great experiences with renowned teachers that as my love for playing drums grew, so did my love for learning and teaching about drums. The day I got my driver’s license, I started driving to teach at a local music store where I had taken lessons.”
Seeing an ad for Drum Workshop in the Yellow Pages, John Good, now DW’s Vice President, signed up for lessons at age 17 to improve his drumming and reverse what he refers to as “bad drumming habits.”
“After three months of lessons, Don approached me and said, ‘You know, I’ve had lots of successful students. I don’t think you’re going to be one of them’,” John says laughing. “So I said, ‘Great…now what are we going to do?’”
The two ultimately hooked up to market the first DW product: Don’s new design for a height-adjustable trap-case seat. Selling about a dozen seats a month, John quit his day job and went to work full-time for Don.
When DW received a purchase order for 100 seats from Camco Drum Company, Don and John realized that they had an innovative product that would sell. Thirty years later, DW is now offering a new version of the trap-case adjustable seat, made out of a lighter weight material, called the 6100 Adjustable Trap-Case Seat.
However, when DW created the original trap case seat, they had the capacity and personnel to create only a dozen seats a month, not 100. Don was still teaching and playing a nightly gig while John built the products. Shortly thereafter, Camco Drum Company owner Tom Beckman approached Don in 1977 with an offer to sell him Camco’s machinery, dies and molds, everything it took to make Camco drums and hardware-everything except the Camco name itself. This gave Don the opportunity to expand his capacity for creating the seats and to expand his product line.
At that point, Don made the decision to accept the offer and change the direction of Drum Workshop from teaching and selling to manufacturing.
(For those who do not remember, the Camco outfit offered a fine and most individual looking line of drums–their round lugs, still a DW design feature today–really made them stand out. Camco was never as big as the “big four,” but they did have some endorsers, including the drummer of The Beach Boys.)
“The idea of failing never really occurred to me,” Don remarks. “Based on our mini-success with the seat, we had learned that if we could offer drummers products that would improve their drumming, we could be successful. Of course, having a desire to go into manufacturing and having the money to do so are two different things.”
Borrowing most of the money from his parents and some from outside investors, Don purchased Camco’s tooling and reintroduced the Camco 5000 nylon strap bass drum pedal under the DW name. The pedal was refined to improve consistency, quietness, smoothness and adjustability of its mechanical operation. As the pedal was rapidly becoming “the drummer’s choice,” Don continued to search for ways to further improve it.
The rest is history. The ever-expanding line of DW drums, kits and hardware is the drum industry standard. Specifically, with their “Classics Series,” “Jazz Series” and 6000 Series of ultra-light stands, DW has successfully brought a legacy of percussion tradition to the year 2007. Call them “traditionally innovative,” if you will, or as they deservedly say, “The Drummer’s Choice.”
Would Gene and Buddy be DW artists? You bet.
I urge each and every JazzLegends.com visitor from around the world to visit DW on the web at www.DWDrums.com
We look forward, at some time in the not-too-distant future, to contact the fine DW folks about becoming involved with JazzLegends.com, as well as with the Gene Krupa upcoming 100th Birthday celebration and subsequent show based on Gene’s life and music.
It’s not only because I have a vested interest in these titles, but two, brand new DVD projects from Hudson Music constitute essential viewing and study. “The Art of Playing with Brushes,” presented by Adam Nussbaum and Steve Smith, presents the drum and brush masters–Billy Hart, Eddie Locke, Joe Morello, Charli Persip and Ben Riley–in performance and in instructional segments. This incredible, three -DVD set is, as the copy accurately says, “an educational and inspirational resource that will never go out of date and is certainly one that belongs in every drummer’s library.” JazzLegends.com visitors will also enjoy the vintage clips by the likes of Kenny Clarke, Denzil Best and many more.
And finally, “Classic Rock Drum Solos” is here. Despite the fact that helping to write and produce this incredible DVD took a year off my life–these vintage rock drummers were a handfull–the result is incredible. JazzLegends visitors and guests, though not rock-oriented, will love the clips by Louis Prima’s Jimmy Vincent, Billy Haley’s Ralph Jones, Louis Jordan’s Shadow Wilson, The Ventures’ Mel Taylor, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, host Carmine Appice, and the many clips where the influence of Buddy and Gene are quite obvious. For ordering info, log on to www.HudsonMusic.com
Finally, our Krupa drumsticks are getting great reviews and seem to be very much in demand. For ordering info, log on to www.Bopworks.net.